Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Working from home

For some people being in a position to work from home is the dream. They love the flexibility it gives them and it probably doesn't hurt that they don't have to change out of their pyjamas unless they want to! I have never particularly been drawn to the idea of working from home myself. I'm generally a social person and enjoy interacting with colleagues. For me, it's also important to have a good balance and to be able to keep my work life separate from home. I love when I can shut down my computer on a Friday evening and not have to think about work issues until the following Monday.

Due to this pandemic, I have now been working from home for over a year and I thought I would share what I've found to be the pros and cons.

  1. No commute
  2. This has actually been a mixed blessing. It's been great having extra time since I don't have to travel to and from work. Plus it saves money. However, on the down side, I've realised that the journey home was a nice way for me to have a bit of time to myself to think. On days I finish working from home and then immediately take over from my husband minding Mini, I feel more drained without that tiny bit of "me time".

    Also, I used to occasionally cycle to and from work which was a nice way of getting some exercise in. I'm lucky to have a relatively short commute to the office usually though. I've spoken to people who are delighted to not have their long commutes while the pandemic is allowing them to work from home.

    Verdict: it's a tie

  3. Comfort factor
  4. When working from home, you don't have to spend as long getting yourself dressed and ready as you usually would. Personally, I prefer to make a certain amount of effort and still wear make-up most of the time even when I won't see anyone. Additionally, I generally prefer to wear smarter clothes as it makes me feel good. However, there have certainly been days when I wore comfy tracksuit bottoms or leggings and that was really nice. Working from home, I usually eat breakfast at my computer to save time which I didn't do before. That could be interpreted as a negative point though.

    We still have video meetings so I do tend to make an effort to look somewhat professional still! However it's nice that for instance when my grey roots are showing, it's not as obvious over the camera as it might be in real life. I can also pop into my kitchen for snacks or drinks without ever worrying a colleague might be secretly judging what I'm eating. (I often wonder if they are thinking, "oh she's having ANOTHER snack!" Or "Chocolate again?!").

    Verdict: pro to working from home

  5. Handy for housework /deliveries
  6. It is really convenient working from home when you are expecting deliveries. I remember how awkward it used to be trying to be home at certain times and still missing them. And you'd often need to go to the post office to collect parcels or go to your neighbours to collect things. Another benefit to being at home is that you can get some household tasks done. Like occasionally I might put a wash on before I start working, or tidy away laundry while taking a break. On the other side, it also bugs me when I am trying to work from home and I see a messy house. Whereas if I'm in the office, I can focus on work without noticing annoying things such as- oh, hubby STILL hasn't put away his laundry!

    Verdict: pro to working from home

  7. The social aspect
  8. This was something I missed a lot at the beginning. It is a big adjustment going from working in a busy office and spending lunch breaks chatting to colleagues to being on my own all day with no interactions apart from emails and occasional meetings. I definitely had some days where I felt quite isolated and the house felt really quiet. I've even gotten used to playing music or radio in the background at times, just to feel less lonely.

    I miss all the other social events too - such as team lunches, Christmas parties and so on. The surprising thing is that as time has gone on I've gotten used to working on my own and these days I don't miss the social aspect as much. That said, I can't imagine being content to continue working from home in the long run.

    Verdict: winner is working in an office

  9. Working parent
  10. Ok, there are definite advantages to being able to work from home when you have a child. When the Kindergartens were closed during lockdowns we were able to keep Mini with us. Don't get me wrong, it was incredibly stressful at times trying to juggle working and minding but it was an advantage to have that option. There was a phase where she wasn't napping anymore at the daycare but would happily nap here so working from home meant I was able to collect her during my lunchbreak, then while she napped I was able to get some more work done.

    On days she was sick, it didn't automatically mean my husband or I had to take time off work to mind her. Sometimes when we compared schedules we found we were able to take turns looking after her and still get our tasks done. Working from home means being around more for Mini too which is a nice bonus. Even if I still have a few more hours to work and hubby collects her from Kindergarten, I can still take a short break to welcome her home with a hug and ask about her day.

    Verdict: winner is working from home

  11. Work/life separation
  12. Ok this is a point in favour of working in an office. As mentioned above I used to love the separation between working me and home me. Being able to turn off my computer in the office and not have to worry about work issues until the next day. That said, occasionally I would end up checking work emails on my down time but thankfully it was usually rare. I get the impression for Americans there is less of a separation for them. Correct me if I'm wrong, friends from the US, but it seems to me that it's typical there to check work emails on weekends and even holidays. In Europe that's rare and certainly not expected.

    Now that my "office" is in my house, I can't get away from work as easily. I don't have a room available to dedicate to just my desk -instead it's a multi-purpose room. So I pass my work to-do list and reminders whenever I'm going to my wardrobe for instance. It's tempting to switch on my pc in the evenings or even weekends to see if I got a response to something.

    Verdict: winner is working from office

  13. German practice
  14. Not being in the office means I get less opportunities to practice my German with my colleagues so I have found my language skills can be a bit rusty.

    Verdict: winner is working from office

  15. Distractions
  16. Initially I thought working from home meant way more distractions but that is only because when I first started the Kindergartens were closed due to the pandemic. Even when hubby was minding Mini so I could focus on work, there would still be many interruptions. For instance I'd have to take a break to mind Mini while he cooked lunch, or often he'd forget where things are and ask me. When I left the room to get myself a cup of tea, Mini would want to play with me. However, when she is in her Kindergarten then there are generally far less distractions at home. You aren't interrupted by your colleagues phone calls or other office noise.

    Verdict: winner is working from home

The interesting thing is that reading through these reasons it's clear that working from home is the winner. And yet I know I wouldn't be happy doing it long term. I guess for now it is working out very well overall and I am happy to have this opportunity. I'm aware that it's a privilege to even be able to work from home during a pandemic. When the offices do eventually open up again (this Summer? Next year?), it will also be a big adjustment getting used to commuting back and forth and being around colleagues again.

However, I do miss the work/life division and social aspect. So overall I will be looking forward to going back. Plus it adds a bit more variety to your day going into the office. Perhaps the ideal solution would be some combination of both. For instance if you had the opportunity to work one or two days a week from home.